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Soft power can make us a global leader: Tharoor

India`s soft power remains its biggest strength in being a global leader but strict visa rules has dented the country`s image abroad, Shashi Tharoor.

Kolkata: India`s soft power remains its biggest strength in being a global leader but strict visa rules has dented the country`s image abroad, writes former union minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor in his new book.

"Today`s India truly enjoys soft power, and that may well be the most valuable way in which it can offer leadership to the twenty-first-century world," says Tharoor in "Pax Indica" which discusses India`s international relationships.

Observing that soft power has grown naturally on the country`s soil, he says India benefits from the future and the past ? from the international appeal of its traditional practices (from Ayurveda to yoga, both accelerating in popularity across the globe) and the transformed image of the country created by its thriving diaspora.

According to the Congress MP, who switched over to politics in 2009 from being a top diplomat in the United Nations, India has however not been able to fully leverage its soft power because of its "inability" to exploit its own democratic traditions of freedom.

"India`s inability to promote and leverage its soft power in the world will receive a major boost only if and when the country`s visa policy is thoroughly re-examined and, ideally, revised," the best-selling author of books like "The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone" argues.

Visa processes, already time-consuming, unnecessarily
demanding and expensive, have become far more cumbersome as a result of the government`s reaction to 26/11 Mumbai attacks, he observes.

"If soft power is about making your country attractive to others, the Indian bureaucracy seems determined to do everything in its power to achieve the opposite effect, in the way in which it treats foreigners wishing to travel to or reside in India," Tharoor says.

Published by Penguin, the book cites various examples to prove that India`s soft power is not depended on any official government policy but is rather an unplanned by-product of the normal emanations of the Indian culture.

Whether it is the oversees popularity of Bollywood films, TV soap operas, popular Indian culture or the strength of our IT industry, all have made its own contribution to India`s soft power.

"When Americans in Silicon Valley speak of the IITs with the same reverence they used to accord to MIT, and the Indianness of engineers and software developers is taken as synonymous with mathematical and scientific excellence, it is India that gains in respect," writes Tharoor, a recipient of Commonwealth Writers` Prize.

India`s democracy, our thriving free media, our contentious civil society forums, our energetic human rights groups and the repeated spectacle of our remarkable general elections, all have made India a rare example of successful management of diversity in the developing world.

Demystifying the world of international diplomacy with a lucid language, the book evokes the country`s soft power and its global responsibilities.